In just over two weeks, the state's new law prohibiting motorists from holding their phones while driving goes into effect, and Hopkins police are trying to make sure drivers comply.

Officers in the west metro suburb bought more than 1,500 phone clips that fasten onto a vehicle's air vent and will hand them out when making routine traffic stops. They also will distribute them July 20 during Hopkins' Celebration of Community, which is part of the city's Raspberry Festival.

Starting Aug. 1, drivers cannot dial, text, scroll or type an address in a maps app while holding a phone, but they can do those things using voice commands or a single-touch activation without holding the phone or device.

"This is going to be a major change, and people are going to have to adapt their habits quickly," said Sgt. Mike Glassberg of Hopkins police. "There is no gray area. If you are holding your phone, that is a violation."

Distracted driving was a factor in more than 60,000 crashes statewide between 2014 and 2018, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Those crashes don't occur only on heavily traveled highways and freeways.

"It's on local streets," Glassberg said. "It's an epidemic."

The black plastic devices stamped with the words "Hopkins Police" and "Hands-Free" work in any vehicle. The clips can be adjusted to fit the size and width of a phone, Glassberg said.

In addition to the clips, which were paid for by the Hopkins Crime Prevention Fund, police also will distribute 2,000 orange rubber bands sporting the words "Don't Tempt Fate." The bands are to be placed lengthwise around the phone as a reminder for drivers to not pick up the phone, Glassberg said.

Cmdr. Dan Scheuermann with the Dakota County Sheriff's Office said his agency also is in the process of securing phone clips and plans to hand them out at events such as National Night Out and the Dakota County Fair.

Under the law, drivers can use Bluetooth with an earbud in one ear only to make hands-free calls, said Lt. Gordon Shank of the State Patrol. Of course, the best hands-free option is to not use the phone at all while driving, he said.

Plans for Hwy. 12 revealed

Hennepin County has cut the number of options for realigning the complicated intersections of Hwy. 12 and County Road 92 in Independence from eight to three. Designs were revealed Thursday at an open house hosted by the Highway 12 Safety Coalition.

There now are two intersections about a quarter-mile apart — an east junction where County 92 heads north and a west junction where County 92 heads south. There is a railroad track and lake on the north side of Hwy. 12.

One plan calls for keeping both intersections with a roundabout to be built at the east junction and an at-grade crossing for the railroad at the west junction. A second option calls for County 92 to be realigned into a continuous route by connecting the segment south of Hwy. 12 with the segment north of Hwy. 12. It would include an overpass with no access to Hwy. 12 at the east junction. A new road would take drivers to a roundabout at the west junction to access Hwy. 12.

A third option would eliminate the west junction, realign County 92 into a continuous route and build an overpass with entrance and exit ramps leading to Hwy. 12 at the east junction. The county is accepting feedback through Tuesday at

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